By Paul Evans
Matt Edwards is celebrating after winning the British Rally Championship drivers title for a record-breaking third time in a row.
Edwards guided his Yuasa Rally Team Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 to a sensational victory on the weekend’s Modern Tyres Ulster Rally.
The Colwyn Bay-based driver arrived in Newry lying second in the drivers’ standings, eight points behind Osian Pryce, and knew that nothing less than victory would give him the title.
The two drivers fought an incredible battle, with Pryce leading after the opening stage.
Edwards took the lead on SS2 and extended it to 8.1 seconds after SS4, before a heavy shower of rain made the closed lanes of County Down even more treacherously slippery.
With both drivers on slick tyres, an astonishing time on SS5 saw Pryce take 10 seconds off Edwards to retake the lead – only for Edwards to return the favour on the next stage to restore his 8.3 second advantage with just the final loop of three stages remaining.
With both crews now on wet weather tyres, Edwards extended his lead to 9.1 seconds on SS8.
The final run over the longest 13.47-mile Bronte Homeland stage (SS8) was always going to be significant and anticipating a big attack from Pryce, Edwards drove a faultless stage to set the fastest time.
Unfortunately for Pryce, his magnificent season came to an end when his Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 left the road mid-way through the penultimate stage and the Machynlleth-born driver’s otherwise faultless season came to an end in a field.
Edwards still had to finish the final stage and win the event to secure the BRC title, which he did at a greatly reduced pace.
Such had been his speed over the 94-stage mile event that he won the Ulster Rally by over two and a half minutes.
Whilst Edwards writes his name into the BRC record books, Darren Garrod (from Abersoch) wins the co-drivers title for a second time, having also guided Edwards to his first title in 2018.
Pryce and his Irish co-driver Noel O’Sullivan take the runners-up spot.
Melvyn Evans Motorsport wins the British Rally Championship Teams title at its first time of trying.
It brings the BRC Teams trophy home to its base in the village of Llanwrda in Carmarthenshire having scored a total of five wins, four seconds and two third place finishes during the season.
In addition, both Melvyn Evans Motorsport cars finished on the podium four times, they finished first and second on three rallies and they recorded a total of 36 overall fastest stage times.
“My mindset for the Ulster Rally was simple – just go as fast as we can on every stage and try to win. Nothing less would have given us the title,” said Edwards.
2021 British Rally Champions
— British Rally Championship (@BRCrally) November 20, 2021
“I knew that the stage that Osian went off on was probably make or break for him. He had to do something special in there and my goal on the penultimate stage was to not give him any opportunity to take a big chunk of time off me.
“The conditions were very tricky and we obviously didn’t know at the time that he’d unfortunately gone off as we were first on the road, but we really nailed the stage that time – really clean, tidy, fast and committed. I felt sure we’d done enough before the news come through.
“The title wasn’t won yet of course as we still had to finish the event and score maximum BRC points, and there was just massive relief inside the car when we crossed the finish line of the last stage!
“To win three British rally tiles in a row is very special, but what makes it even more special for me is that it’s been in the making for two years.
“Because of Covid we’ve had to work hard to ensure everyone remained engaged with the programme and to make sure the opportunity to win the British title three times in a row was still on when competition was allowed to restart.
“It hasn’t been an easy two years. Performance-wise I’ve had to keep on top of my game even when there haven’t been any rallies to do.
“I’ve also had to make sure the sponsors stayed engaged, I had to find a new car, I had to find a team to run it – all the things you do behind the scenes, I’ve had to maintain that level of focus, ambition and motivation in myself and in others for two years.
Osian Pryce And Matt Edwards In A Final Head-To-Head Fight To Become British Rally Champion https://t.co/QnKBUHQCkC
— Dai Sport (@Dai_Sport_) November 20, 2021
“But everyone has remained extremely loyal and stayed with the programme and it’s all thanks to Yuasa, TPS, Swift, Speedline Wheels, Nicky Grist Motorsport and Melvyn Evans Motorsport for making this year such a huge success.
“So many people had faith in me and together we went out and achieved British Rally Championship history.
“It hasn’t all been plain sailing this year. I made a mistake on Mull, which could have written off our title challenge, and our issue on the Cambrian could have certainly ended it.
“It’s too easy to park the car up when something goes wrong, but when you have so many people involved behind the scenes you have to think of the incredible effort that they’ve all put in too.
“I’m the guy they’ve entrusted to deliver on their investment and it’s a big responsibility.
“I never give up and those points scored finishing Mull and the Cambrian turned out to be crucial, as we knew they would.
“After the Cambrian I knew that I had to retake control of the situation.
“We’d had problems, some of our own making, and enough was enough.
Two-time British Rally champion Matt Edwards will return to the series in 2021 in a bid to make history by claiming three titles in a row.
— British Rally Championship (@BRCrally) February 25, 2021
“I was in such a good place physically and mentally going into the final round in Ulster that there was never any doubt in my mind that we’d be British champions again.
“It didn’t happen exactly how I’d dreamt it, but it happened!
“Despite the very tricky conditions on the Ulster Rally, we’ve pushed hard and won without putting a scratch on the car – which is back to normal in that respect, because I absolutely hate damaging a rally car!
“We’ve had the pace all year. A few things haven’t gone as planned, but we always believed winning the British title would happen.
“Everyone knows how much the British Rally Championship means to me and I’m very proud to have won the title three times in a row.”